Tesla fundraiser nets $1.37 million for Shoreham lab

COURTSEY PHOTO | The Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham was built in 1901 by renowned architect Stanford White.

An online fundraising drive to help secure money for a nonprofit group to purchase the property around a former Tesla laboratory in Shoreham netted more than $1.37 million for the cause in just over a month, organizers announced this week.

The campaign, organized by nonprofit group Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe and creator of The Oatmeal webcomic Matthew Inman, raised the money to turn famed inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla’s lab into a science center and museum.

“We are so delighted and it’s so encouraging to know that people from all over the world, from over 108 countries, felt strongly enough to participate in this cause,” said Jane Alcorn, group president.

Mr. Tesla, a rival of Thomas Edison and a pioneer in the use of alternating current, conducted experiments at the Wardenclyffe laboratory off Route 25A, built in 1901 in the hopes of providing free, wireless electrical energy to the world.

After Mr. Tesla’s death, the property was leased to a photography company, which dumped waste on the land. Wardenclyffe was later purchased by an imaging company that is now trying to sell the property.

The fundraiser was started after the group heard rumors that a potential buyer might purchase the land first and demolish the existing laboratory building to make way for retail shops. In the first six days of the campaign, the group raised nearly $1 million, enough to trigger an $850,000 reimbursement grant from New York State to help purchase the land.

The non-profit will now meet with a team of lawyers working pro-bono to iron out the purchase of the land, Ms. Alcorn said, adding that the process will take several months.

“It’s not like buying a house, there’s much more involved,” she said.

Though the other potential buyer may still be interested, Ms. Alcorn says she is confident the nonprofit will be able to close the deal.

“It’s not a secret that we want this property, it’s also not a secret that we raised the money to do it,” she said. “I’m a very tenacious person. I was always very confident that we would get to this point.”

Ms. Alcorn said her group’s board members – Chris Wesselborg, Gene Genova, Mary Daum, Michael Russo, Margaret Foster, Richard Gearns and David Madigan – will also look over environmental issues at the site and meet with volunteer engineers to check the building for any structural damage.

Ms. Alcorn thanked the donors to the project, including the team behind the independent film Fragments from Olympus, which helped support the cause.

The group will update its website and Twitter feeds with more information as it becomes available, Ms. Alcorn said, to allow supporters to remain a part of the process.

“We want to be as open as we can about all of the progress that we make,” she said.

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Oatmeal creator Mr. Inman’s first name as Michael. His first name is Matthew.